The 6th of April has been declared by the UN General Assembly in 2013 as the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, to acknowledge the contribution of sport towards development across borders. This year the day is celebrated as the 2nd International Day of Sport for Development and Peace.

Many international organisations like UNESCO, Commonwealth, International Olympics Committee (IOC) and FIFA have endorsed the day; as sport is universal, it can nurture peace, tolerance and equality amongst all the people - regardless of their race, religion, gender or economic divisions.  The sport also develops a sense for teamwork, discipline and respect for the opponents – it is an area of life where you do not have to be privileged to achieve something.

As early as 1922, the IOC and the UN International Labour Organisation established a cooperation to raise the profile of sport, and use it to create a better world.  The current IOC President Thomas Bach, visited the Municipal Fencing Club in Rio de Janeiro, the host city of the 2016 Olympic Games, ahead of the 2nd International Day of Sport for Development and Peace; Bach, the former fencer - the 1976 Olympics gold medalist and former world champion, spoke to young fencers from a fencing project for underprivileged children and emphasized the universality of sport. This is just one of many similar projects run by various NGOs and other organisations across the world.

Football’s world governing body FIFA recognises the power of sport, in particular football, as it is played in the most difficult countries in Africa or Asia. The football organisation commemorates this day with several initiatives, one of them being a “Handshake for Peace”, which was jointly launched by FIFA and the Nobel Peace Center. The campaign involves a simple handshake before and after the games, which symbolises friendship, respect and fairness.

My firsthand experience on the universality of sport came eight years ago when I went to a small Central Asian country Tajikistan; I had hardly heard of the country before, and, while there, I visited some remote villages, completely isolated from the outside world. However, I spent the warm summer evenings playing football with the locals, some barefooted, without speaking a word of their language. The game broke down walls and barriers, and I will remember the experience to this day.

Let us all reflect today on the strength that sport brings to the world.

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